What’s actually in a name? Do we assume the particular flavour of the names we’re given, or would a different name suit us better? How touchy are you about your name? Do you get irritated when it is mispronounced or misspelled? Or do you, like me, have one of those “popular” names that you share with a gazillion people of roughly the same age?
Last Tuesday I attended a birthday party with a difference. It was held in the bush and involved the guests preparing and serving the three course birthday feast (with generous support from our hosts). I was on the Rosemary team, responsible for Shrimp and Mango Bava, two kinds of bread and iced tea. In this case, Rosemary was not for Remembrance. Remedial, maybe, but certainly not remembrance. I took charge of the mangoes. All I had to do was halve them and remove the pips, but no, instead I peeled, sliced and generally disembowelled them. You naughty, naughty, naughty girl! Read your recipe! (I was not my sparkling best, after about two hours’ sleep.)
The other members of my team were better behaved but barely better skilled. Cathy had arrived back from Perth at 4am and was suffering from serious jet-lag, and my flambé friend Sidney is more comfortable with desserts than starters. Granted, we were not the most sparky team on the block, so keeping an eye on us was rather stressful, but does that excuse our host for consistently getting Sidney’s name wrong? No matter how often we corrected her, she insisted on calling him Stanley. Eventually we gave up and joined in. It was easier to go with the flow. Strangely enough, Sidney’s mother-in-law used to call him Stanley too. (There is something of the intrepid explorer about him.)
On Friday we adopted a two-year-old tom cat, and since it was Churchill’s birthday, we named him Winston. I followed all the rules for looking after a recently neutered tom, notably keeping him confined to the house at night. But on the third day, Winston “escaped” through the pantry skylight – in the middle of a storm, no less.
His little escapade reminded me of Churchill’s escape from prison during the Anglo-Boer War, when the young war correspondent swam the “mighty” Apies river (today you could splash through it ankle-deep). Churchill’s “escape” was also an unnecessary exertion on his part. Obviously he didn’t know it, but he would have been freed the next day. Jan Smuts had already arranged his release. I can just see the guards chuckling as they watched Winston squeeze through the bars and abseil down the wall.
Our own Winston was back on his perch in the pantry by daybreak – as if he’d never put a paw wrong. The window is now left open so he doesn’t have to negotiate net curtains or a holly bush again, but now that there’s no challenge he seems content to spend his time eating and sleeping 24/7.
The changing fashions in names are fascinating. Perhaps we’ll eventually revert to Ethelreds, Ethelstans, Boudiceas, Mabs, Ganymedes and those wonderful names that were popular before the Romans invaded England. I come from a generation of women called either Lynn or Carol, or both. My name is actually Carol Lynn (a double whammy) but I’ve always been called Lynn, except for five years at High School, when I became Carol (because there had been so many Lynns at Primary School). It didn’t help – there were just as many Carols at High School. No little girls seem to be called Lynn (Lindy or Linda) anymore. But in my generation, every second person (male or female) seems to have some variation of Lynn as a first or second name. Waiting for a delayed flight after my first visit to the Himalayas, our hiking group discovered that all but one of us had Lynn as a second name. In my euphoric state at the time, it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. I’d enjoyed being “Didi” (Nepali for “big sister”) for most of the trip.